Since then, I've definitely come to think of Rik as a friend. As silly as it sounds, Rik has this very calming effect on me. When I feel anxious (like I did the night before my marathon), I like to call him to talk and he has a way of making me feel better. He makes the perfect captain for our team! While I could go on and on about Rik, I will let him share his personal journey. His story is a little longer than the others I've posted, but Rik doesn't have a blog--so I don't want to cut out any of his story. It's totally worth the read!
As long as I can remember, I have always been fat. It was always just a matter of HOW fat.
I come from a long line of fat people and great cooks, and grew up with an extended family that believed very strongly that you show love with good food. I have always been trying to lose weight. I can remember logging calories in a notebook every day in middle school, and attending Weight Watchers meetings in high school. Nothing worked.
Of course, I hadn’t tried getting off my butt. It pretty much never occurred to me. I was the last kid picked for the team in gym class. I didn’t worry too much about it though, because my parents had always put all the emphasis on academics. If it wasn’t for gym class, I’d have been on the honor roll every quarter!
Between my freshman and sophomore years of college, I worked third shift stocking shelves at a grocery store, and I didn’t have a car yet, so I biked back and forth to work. At the end of that summer, I also had my wisdom teeth out, and pretty much didn’t eat for a week. I went back to school at 169 pounds. It was the first time my weight matched my height, and I was thrilled!
But I somehow didn’t put together the hard work of the summer with the weight loss, and as soon as I got back to my college routine, that weight started coming back. I felt powerless to stop it. I graduated college in 1992 and married Cynthia, my college sweetheart, at age 22. And over the next 15 years, I watched my weight slowly but steadily continue to increase, topping out at 275.
As I mentioned, I come from a close family. My dad is one of my heroes, and I've taken a lot of cues from him regarding what’s important in life, and how to live it. For the most part, that’s a very good thing. But I also have his genes, and his love of good food, and his prioritizing of mental pursuits over physical ones. Over the last several years, I have seen him struggle with health challenges: he is significantly overweight, has back trouble, a heart stent, and is diabetic.
And one day, at age 38, it hit me. Looking at my dad, I was looking at a preview of coming attractions. I was starting to see the beginnings of some ill health effects for myself: borderline high blood pressure, sleep apnea, low energy. I was just exhausted all the time. It was as if I was never fully awake during the day, nor fully asleep at night. And I had spent over 10 years on medication for a digestive disorder that had pretty much turned me into a shut-in. I could tell you the location every public bathroom in the city. And I thought, if I don’t do something, right now, this is as good as it gets for the rest of my life.
I should mention that I also have my dad's proud and stubborn streak, which makes me insist on solving my problems on my own and not admitting when I need help, thinking it to be a sign of weakness. But after trying and failing to lose weight a million times, something had to give. I finally got humble, and admitted that I needed to call in an expert. It was January of 2008.
As they say, when the student is ready, the teacher will appear. And that's when I met my personal trainer, Myra, the woman who would save my life. Myra is a personal trainer that Cynthia met at the gym. They got to talking, and we arranged for Myra to come to the house and meet me. I was so embarrassed to even talk to her. I remember when she asked me during our first session about my goals, I didn’t really have any. And I thought, what an idiot. I should have a goal! But I didn’t know what it should be. I said something non-committal about having her teach me some exercises so that I could do them myself.
Our exercise session was one hour, with her doing most of the talking and leading me through some exercises in my basement rec room. I remember it was very uncomfortable and embarrassing, and I didn’t say much. I couldn’t do one push up. But she was SO encouraging and so positive, I thought, well maybe I should stick with this.
We met one hour each Thursday night, and it seemed like a LOT of work. I would drag myself up the stairs at the end, dripping with sweat. And Cynthia was always at the top of the stairs in the kitchen, wanting to hear how it went, with a proud look on her face. I love that look! And Myra would tell her in glowing terms how well I did. It was a little embarrassing to hear, but I eventually got to like it.
Myra and I did that for six months, until, at some point, it just seemed like part of my weekly routine. At that point, we added a second hour on Monday nights. Something weird happened. I started looking forward to our sessions. That was new! And Myra and Cynthia continued to cheer me on, so I just worked all the harder.
At the new year, 2009, Myra asked me again to set a goal. I said (and I honestly have no idea where this came from) that I would like to try jogging. I’ve seen people in my neighborhood doing it, and they look like they are having fun. But again, I had to admit I didn’t know something--I had no idea how to run! Fortunately, I own a treadmill, so Myra said, "No problem, I will talk you through it." And after we cleared all the hanging clothes off the treadmill, dusted it off and plugged it in, she had me up on it and talked me through the basics of a running stride.
Myra and I started dedicating the beginning of each of our sessions to treadmill time, and after about six weeks, I was able to go a mile without stopping. It took 14 minutes, but it was a mile. I remember Myra asking me how I felt, and I said I felt like I could do anything. And I meant it! It was the best feeling!
Not long after that, I started training for my first 5k, three months away, in March. I remember showing up that day VERY self-conscious and nervous, thinking everyone around me could tell that I was new to this, that I didn’t belong there. My goal was to run the whole distance without needing to stop and walk. And I did it. Another victory, and this time, the feeling of being able to do anything lasted all weekend.
From there, I was hooked. I set a new running goal every three months, eventually leading to my first marathon in October of 2010. I was running on my own multiple days per week, and I LOVED my training. Myra tweaked our sessions to complement the running. I even took up yoga to help build flexibility, to help with the running. I built distance and speed, and confidence. And I met a bunch of new friends along the way, including a whole Ragnar team.
And the weight just FELL off. (You can watch it happen on fast-forward in a little video at the end of this post). I dropped 90 pounds, and all the ill health effects I was suffering have vanished. My blood pressure dropped 30 points, my cholesterol dropped 100 points. My doctor was amazed. No more medication, no more staying home while everyone goes out to have fun.
My weight settled at about 185. At that point, I just maintained for about a year to make sure I was truly done. In September of 2011, I went in to consult with a plastic surgeon about the extra skin around my midsection, and he confirmed that I indeed just had skin there, that there wasn’t fat there anymore. It was hard to believe, because what I saw in the mirror just didn’t match what I hearing. But I booked the surgery for December of 2011, again deciding to trust the expert.
|Rik was EXTREMELY nervous to post this picture, but I told|
him he looks fantastic and has nothing to be ashamed of.
Now he doesn't even look like he was ever overweight!
Cynthia stumbled across Katie’s blog while researching the weight loss skin removal surgery. I was shocked. Katie and I had been on a common path for a couple years, and here she was having the same surgery as me, just three weeks ahead of me. Her honest and detailed account helped me tremendously. It was like looking three weeks into my own future. Katie’s blog was more informative than anything else I had read, or even what I had heard from the surgeon.
While I was laid up for six weeks recovering, I reached out to Katie to thank her. And we hit upon this idea to put together a Ragnar relay team made up of people with stories like ours. You’ll be hearing a LOT more about this project as it develops, on Katie’s blog, on our team’s Facebook page, and hopefully a lot of other places!
As I write this, I am a few weeks away from running my fourth marathon. I’ve decided to set a lifetime goal to run a marathon in every state, and so my next one is June 23 in Anchorage, Alaska. My brother lives there and he hasn’t seen me in person in about three years.
The person I was five years ago would not recognize me anymore. And at last, I finally know I will never go back. I’ve worked too hard and I feel too good to go back. And I got so much help getting here, I feel strongly about helping others achieve success. Instead of going back, it’s now time to pay it forward.